It’s a bit of a cliché. This sport of audio is all about reproducing music, and audiophiles tend to blather on about how important the music is to our world. But walk around most audio shows, and it’s all about the gear, the equipment. There’s often a marketplace for used or new records, but it’s the equipment that takes center stage.
Montreal Audiofest is a little bit different. On Saturday morning, as I rode down the escalator toward the main floor, I could hear the usual cacophony of competing systems from various exhibits. It’s a familiar racket, made up of different musical styles clashing together into a sort of tradeshow din. But rising above that carrier wave was the sound of a harp—it was clearly live and not reproduced. As I reached the bottom of the escalator, I encountered harpist Isabeau Corriveau calmly playing selections from her new album, A Leap of Faith, which was available for sale on both LP and CD. There’s admirable bravery in performing in such a venue. It’s a loud location, with lots of coming and going. So I stopped awhile, both to listen and to gauge the reactions of showgoers.
Most of the crowd moved past Corriveau without taking much notice. There’s a lot of ground to cover at Audiofest, and many attendees were there to shop for equipment. However, a smaller contingent stopped mid-stride, transfixed by the incongruity of such a delicate instrument in such a bustling location. Corriveau has a lovely touch on the harp and a beautiful, clear voice, and she amply rewarded the showgoers who took the time to pause and listen.
While listening to Corriveau, I did a slow 360 to take in my surroundings. Directly behind me was one of Motet Distribution’s booths, this one dedicated to LPs and CDs, which were available for sale. I took a peek at the titles and noted that some of them were recordings made by Fidelio Music, based right here in Montreal. I have several Fidelio Music CDs in my collection, and they all sound incredible.
Motet Distribution’s Katherine Sung
Inside the Motet Distribution booth, I noted one more connection with a local Montreal musician: Vincent Bélanger, a classically trained cellist who has partnered with the Audio Note Music label. Motet Distribution had several of his LPs available for sale, some from Audio Note, others from Fidelio Music.
At previous Audiofests, I’ve often come upon Bélanger playing in various rooms, seated between the speakers, which gives showgoers the chance to compare his recorded performances with the real thing, in real time. I had another opportunity this year to experience this demo in the Audio Note room, during which Bélanger played over a multi-tracked recording of himself. Although it was easy to differentiate between the recorded and live Bélanger, the Audio Note system acquitted itself remarkably well.
Another location at Audiofest, and another Montreal artist! Anne Bisson has become a fixture at the show, which makes perfect sense. Bisson is a Montreal mainstay with an acting career that spans 20 years. She’s segued into a music career as an accomplished pianist and singer, with six albums in her discography, including one cross-pollinated with Fidelio Music and another a duet with Vincent Bélanger. At this year’s Audiofest, Bisson was promoting her new album, Be My Lover.
Although I didn’t see her performing this year, I’ve heard Bisson play at Audiofest in years past, and I have her Blue Mind LP at home. She has an evocative style that can transform in a flash from a breathy whisper to a clear, open-chest voice.
It’s refreshing to see the focus Audiofest puts on live music and the musicians who create it. This is what keeps us honest.
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!